I had seen several documentaries about chimpanzees but I had never had a close encounter with them until I visited Kibale National Park. The Park which is located 26km from Fort Portal town, Western Uganda, is home to about 1500 chimpanzees according to Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Upon arrival at the National Park office, we were given a brief by the rangers about what we may see and what we shouldn’t do when we meet these so-called “close relatives” of ours. When it was all said and done we began our trek to find these primates.
Interesting fact about chimpanzees is that they set up nightly beds/nests and when morning comes they migrate. Sometimes it is a hustle to find them and this specific day was one of them. We trekked through the forest for hours without any trace of them and at one point it felt like the only animals we may see are forest elephants because of their gigantic steps we were seeing in the ground.
There are fruits of a tree that forest elephants like, trust me I don’t remember the name of the tree or the fruit. Our ranger assured us that when elephants eat this fruit they get drunk. So you can imagine how my mind went off because it’s not every day that you get to imagine a drunk elephant. There I was thinking about a staggering elephant leaning on trees for support and it randomly hugging monkeys (I don’t even how that is possible but my mind went there).
If the biggest land mammals can get high off this fruit imagine the effect it would have on a human. The ranger told us that one of his friends just tasted it and he was high for the rest of the day. Believe me you, I like trying out different delicacies but I wasn’t about to cross this fruit.
After a few hours of trekking, we finally managed to track down the chimpanzees. As we approached them, I could hear different sounds and I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! These are some intelligent creatures, explains why they are the closest relative to man.” They have about 32 different calls that can be distinguished by humans but I have a strong feeling there may be other calls that we have no idea about.
When we finally made it to the chimpanzees, there was one lying down and at first glance, I thought it was dead but I was reassured that it wasn’t. It just lied there and on close observation, I noticed it had its middle finger out. I know how intelligent these creatures are so maybe it was cursing us out for invading its privacy or not. 😂
Named after the famous Italian footballer, Totti was the alpha male at that time. Confident of its strength (chimpanzees are about 1.5 times stronger than humans), it was totally unbothered by our presence.
Its calm demeanor also said a lot about its leadership. At one point the younger chimpanzees tried to start a melee but it wasn’t the tiniest bit threatened, it just sat on the tree trunk and tried to take another nap.
As I looked at these chimpanzees go about their business, I couldn’t help but think about the human evolution story. Was this all we did back in the day? Did we just sit around, eat and leave the mating to the alpha males? Or there is a lot more to it?
Being in close proximity with these primates really gave me a better appreciation of nature. The way they interacted with each other and their environment was really captivating because there is a closeness to human behavior.
I totally recommend that you go visit Kibale National Park when you manage to get a break in your schedule, never know you may find more than you seek.